From Reuters Alert Net, writer Katy Migiro talks about the struggle to keep fed that has only gotten worse in recent months.
Last year, international humanitarian organisation Concern Worldwide admitted 2,839 children with severe malnutrition into its therapeutic feeding programme, which covered six out of nine districts in Nairobi. Of those children, 64 died.
Another 3,400 children were diagnosed with moderate malnutrition, though lack of funding meant they were not given treatment. In the first three months of 2011, Concern admitted 1,021 severely malnourished children from eight Nairobi districts and identified moderate malnutrition in another 800.
Poor families spend most of their income on food. The price of potatoes has jumped 87 percent in the last year, while cooking fat and kerosene – which poor families use for cooking and lighting – is up 53 percent, according to the Kenyan government.
“There is no doubt that people in the urban slums are going to be the first to be affected (by) any small increase in food prices,” said Noreen Prendiville, head of the nutrition section at UNICEF, the U.N. children’s agency.
“This is an issue of extreme poverty.”
URBAN POOR OVERLOOKED
Odhiambo, 36, is a carpenter who earns 700 Kenya shillings ($8) a day when work is available. His family eat two small meals a day.
“Being that I have little money, I try to get what the children are required to eat but sometimes it is not enough,” said Odhiambo.
“If you don't have money, back at home is hell,” he said. “You don't feel comfortable coming home because you want to feed them but you can't.”
There are no comprehensive statistics on the number of malnourished children in Kenya's urban areas.
The World Health Organisation defines the nutritional situation as "critical" when 15 percent of children are malnourished, triggering a humanitarian response. With malnourishment in urban settings often overlooked, critics argue this definition needs to be revised.
Last year, 3,294 malnourished children living in rural Kajiado District were given emergency treatment because the rate of malnutrition was 11.5 percent, and drought had killed large numbers of livestock. But children living in Nairobi slums received no assistance as the malnutrition rate was an "acceptable" 3.5 percent.
Yet the total number of children at risk in the city was much higher. In Mathare, just one of Nairobi's 200-odd slums, a malnutrition rate of 3.5 percent translates into 2,961 children.